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Forget cupcakes: D.C. gets its first frozen yogurt ATM

Friday - 6/20/2014, 8:46am  ET

frobot (WTOP/Kristi King)
Frobot, a frozen yogurt ATM, is installed at UberOffices in Dupont Circle. (WTOP/Kristi King)

D.C. has been waiting years for its cupcake ATM from Los Angeles-based Sprinkles, but it looks like a local company has beat them to it when it comes to dessert-dispensing vending machines.

Meet Frobot, a frozen yogurt ATM invented by a Tysons Corner-based startup. Currently installed at UberOffices in Dupont Circle, a co-working space inhabited by many tech startups, the prototype machine dispenses a 7-ounce portion of frozen yogurt after the swipe of a credit card. The cost? $3. (The Frobot team has a handy video on how it works.)

Dreamed up by college friends Melissa Nelson and Jeremy O'Sullivan, Frobot came to life through their mutual love of entrepreneurship and disruptive technology, Nelson said. They were both working as accountants and realized they were "dissatisfied," Nelson said.

They self-financed the Frobot startup, which they've been working on since 2011 with $100,000 of their own cash.

Right now, Frobot dispenses only a single flavor, but the company is working on upgrades that could offer more than one flavor and, eventually, toppings, the founders said. They've got three subsequent machines in production right now to work out some more of the kinks. Next up: two flavors and a swirl option.

The company ultimately hopes to begin nationwide distribution of the Frobots early in 2015, said Nelson.

The business model has two prongs: one sort of franchise model, where owners can install Frobot branded machines and maintain them; and another in which existing yogurt chains such as Pinkberry or Red Mango could purchase the machines and brand them under their own names, taking over maintenance responsibility.

Reaction to the Frobot at the UberOffices has been extremely positive so far, said Nelson.

"When we first launched, we didn't anticipate the demand, and the machine sold out. The outcry was ridiculous," she said.

With the expected arrival this summer of the Sprinkles ATM, D.C.'s becoming a veritable hub of instant-gratification treat machines. What's next — our own caviar ATM?

© 2014 American City Business Journals, Inc.